[edit: Burgielaw has responded to this article to clarify matters: “Burgielaw.com wishes to clarify that, as of today, Bar Council has neither disapproved nor disallowed the application of Burgielaw.com.”]
In June 2016, TheMalaysianLawyer.com published an article titled “Malaysian Bar Council’s scrutiny of Dragon Law continues legal innovation debate”, written by Marcus van Geyzel.
The article was prompted by a report that the then Malaysian Bar President, Steven Thiru, had confirmed that Dragon Law‘s entry into the Malaysian market was being scrutinised. Do re-read that article for an analysis of the state of legal innovation in Malaysia at the time.
This article seeks to provide an update on the Bar Council’s stance on services in the innovative legaltech sphere—BurgieLaw, CanLaw (which was launched after the earlier article), and Dragon Law—based on the report by the Legal Profession Committee (“LPC”) dated 1 December 2016 contained in the 2016/17 Annual Report of the Malaysian Bar.
The LPC’s report stated that the Bar Council adopted the LPC’s view that BurgieLaw’s service—which would enable members of the public to schedule appointments with lawyers who advertise through the service, and to have a 15-minute free consultation with a lawyer—would be in breach of section 37(3) of the Legal Profession Act (“LPA”), and that BurgieLaw has been disallowed from offering such services. Section 37(3) of the LPA was discussed in the earlier article.
According to the report, BurgieLaw informed the LPC that it would change its mechanism, but the revised mechanism has yet to be considered by the LPC.
The LPC’s report stated that the LPC is considering whether law firms would be allowed to publicise their services on CanLaw’s website, for a fee. CanLaw is a service which enables members of the public to obtain legal fee quotes from lawyers.
Based on a report in The Star on 17 March 2017, the LPC is still discussing the matter, and CanLaw also published an update on 21 March 2017 confirming that they are still waiting for a response from the Bar Council.
Following on from the Bar President’s earlier confirmation that Dragon Law’s services were being reviewed by the Bar Council, the LPC’s report stated that they have concluded that Dragon Law is clearly in breach of section 37(2) of the LPA, as they are undertaking work that is customarily carried out by an advocate and solicitor.
The report does not clarify what action will now be taken by the Bar Council against Dragon Law.
Based on the stance that the LPC and Bar Council continue to take towards these new legal-related services, it appears that Foong Cheng Leong’s view in our earlier article that “many of the legal innovations we have seen successfully introduced by startups which have benefited the public in other jurisdictions may be impossible to implement in Malaysia” may prove to be accurate.
It is also unclear what impact the new “Innovation and Future of Law Committee” mentioned in our earlier article has had—their report in the same Annual Report of the Malaysian Bar makes no mention of these new services.